Chat Transcript from Tuesday Evening w/Aaron

<p>Took a little while to get this transcript straightened out. We had a couple of Steeler trolls try to upsaet the chat. That will not happen again since starting Tuesday, all chats will be password protected. <p>Next chat, Tuesday 9PM.

aaronwilson  Yes, I'm ready for your questions. Let's get started.
adminsteve  OK Dev's first
Dev21  Okay, how close are the Ravens to getting all of their rookies signed by Friday?
aaronwilson  They are closer after today with the agreements in principle reached with punter Dave Zastudil, return specialist Lamont Brightful, running back Chester Taylor and strong safety Chad Williams. That leaves them Ed Reed, the first round pick, Tony Weaver, the second round pick, Javin Hunter, the sixth round pick and Wes Pate, the seventh-round selection. Ed Reed told me this evening that he is very close to getting his deal done too
Dev21  That's great news
HDDream  Can you explain why they cut 3 OL last week, it seemed kind of odd timing unless they thought they were close to getting a deal done with Boulware and/or Lewis, and they were freeing up spots for guys like Coleman & Freeman. But, they've only got 9 guys on the OL right now, they can't go through camp with just 9, can they?
aaronwilson  Additionally, Pate's agent, Vann McElroy, said he was close, too, but was looking for a slightly larger signing bonus than the latest Ravens offer. The Ravens should get all of these deals done by Thursday, but you never know in a negotiation. Peter Schaffer, Hunter's representative, told me he's waiting for a higher counter-offer from the club's negotiators
aaronwilson  The Ravens aren't inclined toward incentives, though. These deals are very standard with slotted signing bonuses. As one agent told me, the rookies aren't breaking the bank with the Ravens' conservative approach to contracts.
aaronwilson  As for the offensive line question, those players, especially Newel Matavao, weren't probably going to make the team. He didn't move very well. The cutting of Jim Walker is probably for a similar reason, too. Why waste the time of the coaching staff to work with a player who's not going to be competitive and add to the atmosphere of your camp? As for Nivens, that one is slightly more curious. He's been to three other NFL camps and started for NFL Europe's Amsterdam Admirals this summer
Crowdog89  Why did the Ravens cut a LB today? I thought that they'd want to go into training camp with as many bodies as possible?
aaronwilson  It doesn't free up cap room. They can go through camp with nine offensive linemen, but they probably won't. Last year, they announced several signings right before camp. They could opt to do that again or stand pat with what offensive line coach Jim Colletto currently has to work with. Either way, it's one of the most stable units on a team in flux.
aaronwilson  Also, the Ravens cut a linebacker today, an undrafted free agent from Howard University who barely got any repetitions in minicamps. It saves evaluation time or frees up another spot for a more qualified prospect. It's nothing to be alarmed about.
aaronwilson  Arah just didn't get much work. He's a versatile prospect who played several positions for the Bison defense, but it was a big jump in competition for him. By the way, Arah attended Mt. Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore.
Dev21  With the prospect of having at least 10 undrafted rookies making the 53-man roster, do you see the Ravens picking up a number of draft picks released by other teams, and placing them on the team? A lot of times, it's just a numbers game, and some lower round choices don't make different teams for different reasons.
aaronwilson  Possibly, it would be an upgrade obviously from their collection of undrafted players. However, because it was such public knowledge of the Ravens' situation of needing depth at most positions, the club was able to pick freely from several of the best undrafted players. It is a numbers game and the Ravens will be opportunistic in their pursuit of the best players available for the lowest possible prices. Incidentally, this is the province of pro personnel.[msg continues in 20 secs]
aaronwilson  The gurus that run that department for the Ravens aside from senior vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome are director of pro personnel James Harris, assistant director of pro personnel George Kokinis and pro personnel assistants like Chad Alexander. All of these guys are extremely adept at their respective jobs. Not too much figurative grass will grow under their feet.
crow  What you think Redmon will do this year
aaronwilson  If you're referring to quarterback Chris Redman, as I imagine you are, not undrafted running back Tellis Redmon, I think he'll experience some growing pains, but he has the requisite physical tools and resilience to combat what teams throw at him. By no means, do I predict a Tom Brady type of season, but I think he'll perform above expectations for a player who has thrown a grand total of three NFL passes, completing two during his rookie season in 2000.
aaronwilson  Chris is a legitimate tough guy who won't be as affected by harsh contact as Elvis Grback, last season's expensive failure was.
Crowdog89  I don't get the Baltimore TV stations. Can you give a quick rundown on the show you are doing on FOX 45 for us poor DC station people?
crow  What will be the key to the ravens playing five hundred ball this year
aaronwilson  I'm going to appear for a few minutes with Bruce Cunningham, Fox's sports anchor this evening. That's why I have to wrap up a bit earlier than usual tonight. It's a three-minute segment outlining the Ravens' largest question marks entering this week's training camp.
adminsteve  Hold on Crow. let me line up the questions.
aaronwilson  The key will be a healthy Jamal Lewis, an able secondary overcoming its lack of experience, nose guard Kelly Gregg surprising with his sturdiness in the middle and attacking style and the Ravens receiving corp doing better than expected. If injuries occur, this season could turn ugly quick, fast and in a decided hurry. The Ravens are almost completely bereft of depth.
aaronwilson  Also, it's unclear how many of these players will become viable starters and which ones are more suspect than prospects.
Crowdog89  Thankyou Aaron.
HDDream  Just a quick follow up on the Redman question, how important is it that he's in his third year here, and thus should know the Billick offense better than any other QB who's played under Billick here?
cosmos  Does Shannon Taylor have any hopes of starting?
adminsteve  Hold on Cosmos
aaronwilson  By the way, Ravens owner Art Modell suffered a mild stroke and is resting comfortably now at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He quipped that he would be ready to run gassers for Ravens coach Brian Billick by Friday. Obviously, he's in good spirits, although it's troubling that he has had such a tough off-season medically with the mild heart attack just before the draft, too.
aaronwilson  It's very important. Chris' knowledge of the offense is far more advanced than some of the previous starters. He's a mature person who studies his playbook and puts in the time. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh wants Redman to be a coach on the field and be able to correct other players when they make mistakes. That's an evolution that's unlikely until Chris establishes himself with some solid performances. He does have solid leadership qualities, though.
Dev21  Do you honestly see the Ravens reaching a contract extension with Boulware before March 1?
aaronwilson  As for Shannon Taylor, he probably wouldn't have a starting outside linebacker role unless Michael McCrary was injured and Peter Boulware, the starting outside linebacker had to move to end, or if Adalius Thomas had to move back to a three-point stance. He's an underrated player who showed me a lot in small flashes last season. He has good size and movement and was a late draft pick of the San Diego Chargers out of Virginia a few seasons ago.
adminsteve  Does the fact that Ron Johnson is signed bode well for his quest to be #3 WR over the other two Hunter and I forgot the other.
aaronwilson  I could see a deal being struck with Peter Boulware in terms of a contract extension on his current deal. It's a matter of both sides being realistic. His market value is attractive and his agents, Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker, are pressing that advantage to the maximum. That's their job. The Ravens' job is to secure Boulware's services but not at all costs. The franchise tag or transitional tag should be employed to ensure proper compensation in case some other teams makes an extravagant offer.
aaronwilson  Not really. Not unless Hunter is a holdout, which is ludicrous for a sixth-round pick. That deal will be done soon. Johnson has a good chance to play a lot because he has elite size. Hunter is more of a deep threat, though. There's also Kenyon Hambrick, who played well in NFL Europe this summer to consider at that position. I think Johnson is in good position to perform well provided he can get separation from cornerbacks with [msg continues in 20 secs]
cosmos  How much space would the ravens have to clear to sign Freemen?
adminsteve  Hambrick. that's the guy!
LeslieFootball  Aaron, I am still confused about ""slotting"". Could you explain the concept and particularly how it impacts on the Ravens. Thanks.
aaronwilson  Probably the Ravens would have to clear up an addition million dollars in cap space to sign the Baltimore native, who would immediately solve the Ravens' talent quotient at receiver.
aaronwilson  As for slotting, it's simply a practice of players receiving a certain signing bonus based on where they are selected, what the other players drafted near their spot in the draft are receiving as well as what the player drafted in their slot the previous year's draft received.
aaronwilson  The rookie base salary, the minimum, is up 7.6 percent this year from $209,000 to $225,000. However, because of a clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the rookie pool remained flat. That's why these deals are so vanilla this year with the exception of top picks like David Carr, Julius Peppers and Joey Harrington, who command mega salary offers.
aaronwilson  Next question. I can take a few more.
adminsteve  Have you heard ANYTHING about Jamal????
adminsteve  Some rumors have been bandied around
crow  how will the 34 effect ray lewis
aaronwilson  If you're referring to Jamal Lewis' status in the NFL substance abuse policy program, I've heard nothing other than some rumors from rivals who would stand to gain from Lewis having a setback.
aaronwilson  He served a four-game suspension while he was injured last season, costing him, in effect, four game checks, which is a large fine, for some undisclosed violation last season. Another strike would, of course, mandate a year's suspension.
Crowdog89  I would hope he learned his lesson.
aaronwilson  As for the 3-4, here's how the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, said it works for the All-Pro middle linebacker. Sometimes, the 3-4 set becomes a 4-3 at the snap of the football. Additionally, fellow inside linebacker Edgerton Hartwell will be asked to take on guards and fullbacks' isolation blocks to allow Lewis to do what he does as well as anyone in the NFL: flow freely to the football and arrive in a nasty mood.
crow  how you see as the ravens breakout player
bigravensfan  Aaron, nice to meet you. I'm an old buddy of Steve's and write for a small publication, ""The Barrymore Brigade"". My concern going into the season is team chemistry, particularly after the tremendous turnover in personnel. Any early indications from players or coaches regarding this topic?
aaronwilson  Lewis estimated his capabilities at 85 to 90 percent at the close of minicamps. Since then, he should be much better off. My biggest question will be his stamina and how his knee will respond to heavy contact. Expect to see plenty of Chester Taylor and Tellis Redmon until Lewis passes several of trainer Bill Tessendorf's tests.
aaronwilson  I think the chemistry might be better because of the subtraction of some oversized personalities that tended to dominate conversation and the locker room. Young talented players can feel comfortable enough now to speak up and be heard and express themselves through their actions, too. Also, I believe Elvis Grbac's struggles were demoralizing to the team and became a distraction. You never knew if he would play well or not.
cosmos  Who will win the nickel back job
RumRunner  Mike PReston told us at Nest 1 that Jamal was limping after his runs in camp. He probably won't be ready til mid-season-right?
aaronwilson  James Trapp, without a doubt. He's eminently qualified. However, if Gary Baxter can't make the grade as a starting corner, Ozzie Newsome told me Baxter would be shifted back inside to safety to compete with Anthony Mitchell while Trapp starts at corner. He's a savvy veteran who still maintains outstanding speed and is a fierce special teams player.
aaronwilson  That's true that Jamal limps after his runs. However, just because he has a limp doesn't mean he can't play through that. Ideally, they would ease him into his workload by increasing his carries depending on how his knee responds to the pounding of contact drills.
cosmos  thank you all, can't wait till the hitting starts
adminsteve  OK Last question folks
aaronwilson  As for the deals, I'm not Nostradamus, but I think the deals won't be completed. This impasse will continue and the Ravens will table heavy discussion until near the close of the season. They need to decide internally how to approach the negotiations. Obviously, Lewis is the main priority, as he should be. Boulware is a special pass rusher, but they shouldn't overpay for him.
aaronwilson  About 10:45.
adminsteve  OK, I think we're done for tonight. Last thoughts Aaron?
RumRunner  How long do you think Redman will last?
Crowdog89  Big Steve I have a ? for you after Aaron quits ok?
adminsteve  Dollar short Rum LOL
HDDream  Great job on scooping the rookie contracts Aaron
adminsteve  OK Thanks Aaron. I'll talk to you later
RumRunner  I'm always short or late-lol.
aaronwilson  I look forward to chatting with you next week when there's some real football stuff to discuss. I think Redman will get a long rope before Jeff Blake is considered for insertion into the lineup. Stay tuned.
Crowdog89  Thanks Aaron.
RumRunner  Thanks Arron. This has been great.

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